Exciting changes coming to the Respiratory program! Starting Summer 2021 and affecting the Fall 2021 intake students, the prerequisites are changing, there will be a hybrid option available for this program and the program name is changing to Respiratory Therapy. Please contact Advising and Career Center with questions at 406-771-5100.

Respiratory Therapy Program Header Image


What is a Respiratory Therapist?

Respiratory Care is a healthcare specialty that offers a set of unique challenges in prevention, treatment, management, and rehabilitation of people with lung problems. Respiratory Care involves a wide variety of life saving, life supporting situations, working side by side with physicians, nurses, and others on the healthcare team, and treating patients ranging in age from newborns to senior citizens.

The work of respiratory care practitioners, involves the administration of treatments using sophisticated medical equipment to patients with lung disorders such as asthma, emphysema, pneumonia, and bronchitis. The respiratory care practitioner also works as a member of the critical care team, in laboratories, in rehabilitation, and in home care. Excellent judgment, assessment, and communications skills are essential for the respiratory care practitioner.

Problem solving and creative thinking are also essential skills for respiratory care professionals. The curriculum is designed to develop critical thinking and analytical skills including collection and organization of data as well as the ability to develop logical actions based on data analysis.

All RTs help people breathe easier.

They're some of the most tech savvy employees in the job market, and their patients are their top priority. They might work with anesthesiologists to monitor patients' breathing during surgery or help diagnose sleep disorders like apnea. Sometimes they help people kick the tobacco habit, work one-on-one with patients in home health care environments or treat asthma sufferers. Some RTs are "first responders" who provide emergency care to people with lung injuries from fires or other disasters.

A day in the life of an RT might include:

  • Diagnosing lung and breathing disorders and recommending treatment methods.
  • Analyzing breath, tissue and blood specimens to determine levels of oxygen and other gases.
  • Managing therapy to help patients recover lung function.
  • Monitoring and maintaining mechanical ventilation and artificial airway devices for patients who can't breathe normally on their own.
  • Conducting smoking cessation classes for their patients and their communities.

Roughly 115,000 health care workers in the United States are respiratory therapists. The demand is growing fast and will keep growing for a long time, so if you decide to become an RT, you'll insulate yourself from a lot of the downsizing your liberal arts and business major friends may have ahead of them.

Day in the life of an RT

Catalog Overview

Program Application  (Fall 2022 Application available February 15th)

Most people take breathing for granted. It’s second nature, an involuntary reflex. But for the thousands who suffer from breathing problems, each breath is a major accomplishment. Those people include patients with chronic lung problems such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema; heart attack and accident victims; premature infants; and people with cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, and AIDS.

In each case the patient will likely receive treatment from a Respiratory Therapist (RT) under the direction of a physician. RTs work to evaluate, treat, and care for patients with breathing disorders. They are a vital part of a hospital’s lifesaving response team that answers patient emergencies.

While most RTs work in hospitals, an increasing number have branched out into alternative care sites, such as nursing homes, physicians’ offices, home health agencies, specialized care hospitals, medical equipment supply companies, and patients’ homes.

  • Obtaining and analyzing sputum and breath specimens;
  • Taking blood specimens and analyzing them to determine levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other gases;
  • Interpreting data obtained from specimens;
  • Measuring the capacity of patients' lungs to determine if there is impaired function;
  • Performing studies on the cardiopulmonary system;
  • Studying disorders of people with disruptive sleep patterns;
  • Operating mechanical ventilators for patients who cannot breath adequately;
  • Delivering inhaled medications and medical gases;
  • Teaching patients with lung disorders to maintain meaningful and active life systems.

RTs perform both diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, such as:

RTs work collaboratively with other healthcare practitioners. Critical thinking and problem solving skills are mandatory for success in this environment. Strong verbal and written communication skills are necessary when interacting with other members of the multidisciplinary health care team as well as the patients and families. Such a role also requires a broad educational background in English composition, communication, and interpersonal relations. Computer literacy is especially important in today’s health care environment.

The RT Program is a two-year program designed to help students develop the knowledge, skills, and professional attitude necessary for a successful career in RT. Upon completion of the AAS degree in RT, graduates will be prepared to begin a career as an Advanced Practitioner RT. Graduates are eligible to take the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) Entry Level and the Advanced Practitioner examinations.

The RT program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care.

Local & Online

Full Details

We are so excited to be able to meet students where they live and offer our classes to more Montanans with our respiratory therapy distance hybrid style program. This will help you earn your degree and earn employment while helping to fill combat the shortage of respiratory therapists across the state and nation. In this delivery method, there is a combination of online learning activities where one or more types of technologies are used to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor in space and time.

  • Academic course content such as lectures, quizzes, and exams will be available online asynchronously, meaning students are required to work through this material according to the course schedule, but the content is available to you 24/7. This is designed to allow students flexibility yet ensure that learning outcomes are achieved. Additionally, students are required to attend weekly live online sessions with faculty and other students. These live sessions will be “zoom” style meetings and will be used for Q&A’s, content review, program updates, and reminders as necessary. The times of these sessions will vary.
  • Clinical and laboratory attendance is required according to the schedule designed by faculty and the local clinical sites. The days, hours, and locations of these sessions will vary but an advance schedule will be provided to allow students to plan accordingly. Full details of clinical and lab sessions will be provided once students are in the program. In general, students should expect to be in a lab session at a local clinic around three hours per week and in a clinical session 2-3 days a week with varying times. Labs begin the first semester and Clinical the second semester.

The Local (clinical) and Online (classwork) components of this program allow students to become a Respiratory Therapist where they live and offers flexibility in learning times to accommodate busy lives. However, this type of learning requires a great level of self-control, motivation and dedication to their studies and schedule. Make no mistake, this is a FULL-TIME commitment, and students should expect to spend a minimum of 40 hours per week working on coursework and clinical sessions, usually more.

In addition to the amount of time students are investing in their education, participating in this distance program means they also have to take the initiative to establish connections with the community for their clinical locations. They must be resilient in an environment that requires them to self-advocate, be vocal about their needs and be self-motivated to arrange what they need in order to succeed.

The face-to-face component of the program is utilized for the lab and clinical where the students must be in a clinical facility with an identified preceptor. Additionally, due to the distance nature of the program, reliable and high-quality technology and computer competency are necessary. Students in this program must have:

  • a reliable computer
  • easily accessible and reliable high-speed internet
  • quick adaptability to technology
  • have a wireless mobile device with network and GPS functionality

Selecting a Clinical Site

Great Falls College has existing agreements with regional clinical facilities that you may work with in the following communities:

  • Great Falls
  • Billings
  • Bozeman
  • Kalispell/Whitefish

In addition, students may attend labs and clinical in other communities either in part or full depending on that facility's ability to provide the level of competency required by the program. For example, a student living in Butte, Lewistown, Helena, Anaconda, Sidney, Wolf Point, Glendive, Cody or any other community may be able to complete portions of their clinical courses locally but will require travel and lodging to attend a regional medical facility to complete adult and neonatal critical care training and specialty care rotations.

For more detailed information on the Local & Online aspects of the program, contact Brian Cayko at brian.cayko@gfcmsu.edu..

Employment Data
  Respiratory Therapist
Median Wage (MT)* $58,420 yearly - $28.09 per hour

Median Wage (US)*

$61,330 yearly - $29.48 per hour
Annual Job Openings (US)* 10,600
Expected Growth (MT)* 30.4%
Expected Growth (US)* 20.9%
*Montana Career Information System
Career Opportunities

Respiratory Therapists have the opportunity to work in an incredibly rewarding career where they help others with their health care needs. RTs are critical to the delivery of quality healthcare in hospitals, clinics and private practice settings, to name a few options.

Demand continues to grow across Montana and the United States for educated and highly skilled respiratory professionals. Students graduating from the Great Falls College MSU Respiratory Therapy program have the opportunity to help others, make a difference in healthcare delivery, earn competitive wages, grow and advance professionally. The RT program at Great Falls College MSU prepares students to take and pass the national credentialing exams (NBRC) and enter the workforce ready to work and make a difference. Once the NBRC exam is successfully passed, a graduate may be eligible to apply for licensure in any of the 50 states, U.S. territories and Canada in some circumstances.

Why Great Falls College MSU

What Our Graduates Say

Figure Out Your Finances

Respiratory Care Program Estimated Costs

Figure Out Your Finances

Students seeking federal financial aid (which includes grants and loans) must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) which online at fafsa.ed.gov. As a result of completing a FAFSA, an applicant will receive a federal Student Aid Report (SAR) in the mail or online. An electronic version of the SAR is automatically sent to the schools listed on the FAFSA. To list Great Falls College MSU, use our school code: 009314.

Students applying for financial aid may also be required to provide proper federal income tax information, completed verification materials, and any other information requested by the Financial Aid Office. Students must apply for financial aid annually.

Assistance is available to prospective students applying for financial aid. In addition, financial aid counseling for new students is an integral part of the admissions and orientation process. Once enrolled, students may receive counseling and assistance as needed. For assistance, please call 406-771-4334, or write to the Financial Aid Office, Great Falls College MSU, 2100 16th Ave S, Great Falls, MT 59405, or email finaid@gfcmsu.edu.

Great Falls College MSU also offers a wide variety of different scholarships to assist you in paying for your college. To view a list of current scholarship offerings, please see our scholarship page.

Explore Course Lists

Respiratory Care Program Course Lists

Application Deadlines

Program Admission Process

The Respiratory Therapist Program Admissions Committee reviews application packets and uses established admissions criteria to rank applicants for admission. The Application Evaluation form used by the committee is enclosed. Criteria for selection emphasize academic performance in prerequisite course work and previous education.

The priority deadline for applications to the Respiratory Therapist Program is May 14, 2021. Completed Program Application Packets may be hand delivered to Health Science Program Assistant at the College or mailed to the College.

Contact Information

Health Science Administrative Assistant
Room R227

Mailing Address

Respiratory Therapy Program Admissions Committee
Attention: Respiratory Therapy Program
Great Falls College MSU
2100 16th Avenue South
Great Falls, MT 59405

  • Please send all application items as a completed packet. Items sent separately and at random are easily lost or misfiled. We are not responsible for any late, lost or misfiled information. Please only send required documentation as other supplemental items will be discarded.
  • Priority Application Due Date: May 14, 2021
  • It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that all requirements are met by the established deadline. Deadlines, guidelines, and policies apply equally to all students; thus, there can be no exceptions.
  • Great Falls College MSU’s Respiratory Therapist Program does not maintain a waiting list. Applicants must reapply each year.
Respiratory Program Application

Information about Great Falls College MSU’s Respiratory Therapist Program is posted on the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) web site, www.coarc.com/47.html. You can see information about our program by selecting interactive map of CoARC program data and then Great Falls from the map. Graduate job placement, and credentialing success as well as program attrition data for all CoARC accredited program is also posted at this site. Click on Outcomes data from the Annual Report of Current Status. Programs are listed by state.

The Associate of Applied Science Program in Respiratory Care at Montana State University-Great Falls meets the "Essentials" and "Guidelines" for Accredited Programs for the Respiratory Therapist as set by the Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care ( CoARC ). Our program accreditation is granted through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs ( CAAHEP ), of which CoARC is their accrediting authority to evaluate respiratory programs.

The Board of Respiratory Care Practitioners:

The Board of Respiratory Care Practitioners are the licensing authority for the State of Montana.

Professional Association

The American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) encourages students and graduates to become members and participate in national and state meetings. The AARC's aim is to foster professional growth, encourage research, and provide services and representation to its members. Further information may be obtained from the national office.

Earn Your Bachelor's

RRT-BS Degree Advancement Program (Online)

Great Falls College MSU Respiratory Therapist Program has teamed up with Boise State University to help you seamlessly finish up your Bachelors of Science in Respiratory Therapy after you complete your degree here at MSU.

There are some things you will want to know about degree advancement early in your time with us here at MSU so please visit the Boise State Degree Advancement Program for information about what you can do now to take the first step towards your BSRT degree and then schedule a meeting with your program faculty to discuss this important next step.

Great Falls College MSU
Respiratory Therapy Program In The News


Respiratory Therapy Faculty


Melissa Wells

Melissa Wells, M.Ed, RRT

Respiratory Therapy Program Director

Phone: 406.268.3708